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Machshavot HaRav: Reflections from Rabbi Waxman


Is it too Soon to be Thinking of Passover?


On Sunday, we visited a colleague in New Jersey. We were impressed by their kitchen: it had so much cabinet space. They even showed us that they had enough space for their Passover dishes and pots and pans: they don’t have to go down to the basement and excavate them.


It was yet another sobering reminder that though it is only January, that Passover is over the horizon; and not that far. (It begins Wednesday night, April 5th.) In fact, at the beginning of last week, when we attended a shivah for the grandfather of his daughter-in-law, Sarrae invited my brother Hillel and his family for a seder: his answer was a definite maybe. (We will nudge him when the holiday gets closer; after Purim, in early March.)


We are aware that in the month and a half prior to Passover, there are a series of special haftorot, most of them reminding us of the coming of Passover. Shabbat Shekalim, which is the first of them, is a reminder not only to pay your dues, but that in ancient times that Jews around the world paid their half shekel for the upkeep of the Temple in Jerusalem, the place where Jews gathered with their paschal sheep. But I have sometimes wondered if the divisions of the weekly Torah reading, in the yearly cycle, were constructed in such a manner that we begin reading about Egypt and the exodus experience some 3 months prior to Passover, whether that was intentional. In a day and age when you couldn’t depend upon Shoprite to have a wide variety of Passover products, were these readings a signal that one should begin the advance preparations needed for the holiday?


Then again, we live as Passover Jews. Zaycher L’yetsiat Mitzraim, in rememberance of the exodus from Egypt is embedded in our liturgy, most notably in the Kiddush for Friday night. And sprinkled through the Torah are reminders that because our ancestors were enslaved we need to be sympathetic and compassionate to those on the margins of society: the Egyptian experience serves as a moral compass.


This is not quite a Crazy Eddie “Christmas in July” moment; but a reminder that Passover is coming. And undoubtedly, some of the Passover items we expect to buy in two months are already being produced, or may even be on a ship from Israel at this very moment.


But before we get to the labors of Passover, we can mark Tu B’Shevat a week from Monday—more about that next week--, and Purim at the beginning of March. And Sarrae and I will get to celebrate our 17th anniversary in a little over 2 weeks. So take a deep breath and enjoy the next month and a half before it is really time to focus on Passover.


Shabbat shalom.


Friday night services will be as usual at 8 p.m. on Zoom.


Saturday morning at 10 a.m. in the sanctuary






Chadashot MeYisrael: News From Israel


Kicking off the Season for American Football in Israel


Football season may be near its end here in the United States, but 8 teams recently kicked off their season in Israel. Although for most Israelis Kadur Regel, literally football, refers to what we call soccer, for a small group of Israelis it refers to American football.


In 1988, Steve Leibowitz and Danny Gewritz, two Americans who had moved to Israel, founded the American Touch Football in Israel (AFTI) league. In 2002 it renamed itself as American Football in Israel (AFI) and adopted flag football rules. 3 years later the Israel Football League, founded by Ofri Becker, merged and the AFI began play with helmets, pads, coaches, etc. Currently it governs 5 tackle and flag football leagues, with some 90 teams and over 2,000 players.


There are 8 tackle football teams with an 8-game schedule followed by playoffs. Courtesy of Robert Kraft, the owner of the Patriots, there is a regulation-size American football field in Jerusalem, the Kraft Family Sports Campus. The Jerusalem Lions are the beneficiaries of this largesse; other teams play on converted soccer fields.


Not surprisingly, for many years, most of the players were new American immigrants or children of American immigrants. But these days, nearly every team outside of Jerusalem is Hebrew-speaking.


Steve Leibowitz, who is president of AFI, points to the growth of the sport and the hope to build three more regulation fields: with fields in Haifa, near Tel Aviv, and in Beersheva.


Back in 2019, Israel hosted the European Flag Football Championship and 2 years ago hosted the World Championship. With the probability that flag football will be added to the 2028 Summer Olympics, AFI is working on developing a squad that could quality for that sport.






Payrush LaParshahah: A Comment on the Weekly Torah


The portion of Boh (Exodus 10:1-11:3) is read this Saturday, January 31st.


11:1 And the Lord said to Moses, “I will bring but one more plague upon Pharaoh and upon Egypt, after that he shall let you go from here; indeed, when he lets you go, he will drive you out of here one and all. (2) Tell the people to borrow, each man from his neighbor and each woman from hers, objects of silver and gold.” (3) The Lord disposed the Egyptians favorably toward the people. Moreover, Moses himself was much esteemed in the land of Egypt, among Pharaoh’s courtiers and among the people.


11:3 The Lord disposed the Egyptians favorably toward the people. In the fulfillment of the commandment it is said, “The Lord had disposed the Egyptians favorably toward the people” (Exodus 12:36); the two texts return to the text “And I will dispose the Egyptians favorably toward the people” (Exodus 3:21), and they serve as a bracket for all of the story of the enslavement of the Children of Israel in Egypt (Exodus 2:a-12:36). From here on begins the story of the exodus from Egypt. The phrasing “Dispose favorably X towards Y” is found in the story of Joseph (Genesis 39:21 [“disposed the chief jailer favorably toward him”]), and similarly in Proverbs 3:4 [“And you will find favor and approbation in the eyes of God and man.”] It is also found in Phoenician writings: “May the gods give you favor and life in the eyes of god and human beings.” And compare this with what is said in the continuation of our verse, “Moreover, Moses himself was much esteemed in the land of Egypt, among Pharaoh’s courtiers and among the people.” (Compare this with the description of Joseph in Genesis 39:2-4 [“The Lord was with Joseph, and he was a successful man; and he stayed in the house of his Egyptian master. (3) And his master saw the Lord was with him and that the Lord lent success to everything he undertook, (4) he took a liking to Joseph. He made him his personal attendant and put him charge of his household, placing in his hands all that he owned.”] and the description of Mordecai in the Scroll of Esther 10:2-3 [“All his mighty and powerful acts, and a full account of the greatness to which the king advanced Mordecai, are recorded in the Annals OF the Kings of Media and Persia. (3) For Mordecai the Jew, ranked next to King Ahaseurus and was highly regarded by the Jews and popular with the multitude of his brethren; he sought the good of his people and interceded for the welfare of all his kindred.”] ) (Professor Yitzchak [Yitzhak] Avishor in Olam HaTanakh: Sh’mot. Professor Avishor, who was born in 1939, was Professor of Hebrew Language at the University of Haifa, and Chairman of the Department of Hebrew. He is now Professor Emeritus. He is a prolific author; writing extensively on Biblical Literature, with special reference to its style and language Among his works are Shivchay HaRambam, [In Praise of Maimonides: Folktales in Judaeo-Arabic and Hebrew from the Near East and North Africa], Iyunim BeShirat HaMizmorim HaIvrit V’HaUgaritit, which appeared in an English edition with the title, Studies in Hebrew and Ugaritic Psalms, Ketuvot Pheneekeot V’haMikrah [Phoenician Writings and Scripture], The Early Translation of the First Prophets in Jewish Arabic [Hebrew], Mechkarim B’toldeot Yehday Iraq UTarbutam [Studies in the History of Iraqi Jews and Their Culture], and The Hacham From Baghdad in Calcutta: Hacham Shlomo Twena. He served as the head of the Academic Center for the Heritage of Babylonian Jewry.)






Questions for Boh 5783 (Exodus 10:1-11:3)


  1. What part of the Haggadah might be based on 10:2?
  2. Do locusts eat trees? Can a swarm of locusts truly eat everything in sight?
  3. Where else in the Bible is a swarm of locusts mentioned?
  4. What did Pharaoh’s courtiers recommend? How did this affect Pharaoh in his negotiations with Moses?
  5. What is the significance of mentioning children and the elderly as participants in the proposed worship? Are there any passages in the Bible that suggest that everybody in the family should participate in worship?
  6. The locusts came from which direction? Where did they end up?
  7. Was the land of Goshen affected by the plague of locusts?
  8. What was significant about Pharaoh’s plea to Moses and Aaron about the 8th plague?
  9. Is there a scientific explanation for the 3-day plague of darkness?
  10. Why couldn’t the Egyptians see each other? Why couldn’t they use oil lamps and torches?
  11. How did Moses up the ante in negotiating with Pharaoh after the 9th plague?
  12. Why did Moses assert in v. 29 that he would never again see Pharaoh? Didn’t Moses see Pharaoh after the 10th plague?
  13. What does the command in 11:2 suggest about where the Israelites lived?
  14. Is it conceivable that Moses, the enemy leader, who had brought the plagues upon Egypt would be esteemed by the Egyptians?

Questions for the Haftorah (46:13-28)


  1. Was Nebuchadnezzer the Babylonian counterpart of Moses with regard to Egypt?
  2. Where were Migdol, Noph, and Tahpanhes? Is mentioning them an example of a synecdoche?
  3. What are verbal links of the haftorah to the Torah reading?
  4. Who was Amon?
  5. The final words of the haftorah echo what famous passage?



Tue, January 31 2023 9 Shevat 5783